NEW ORLEANS – Commissioner Roger Goodell used his annual state-of-the-league address to assure that the NFL is doing everything it can to improve player safety and healthy in the game on a number of fronts.
“That is a big priority,” Goodell said. “The game is safer, and we have an evolving health and safety culture.”
Goodell re-emphasized his belief that stronger penalties must be levied for players who commit illegal hits, especially among repeat offenders. The NFL tried to suspend Ravens S Ed Reed for what the league determined to be repeated violations of the rule prohibiting hits to the heads and necks of defenseless receivers.
"We're going to have to see discipline escalate,” he said. “When you're involved in dangerous techniques, we're going to have to take them off the field. Suspensions get through to (players)."
Although the issue has been tabled several times the past few years at the resistence of the NFLPA, Goodell did not rule out the possibility of an 18-game regular-season schedule in the future. He said he believed that reduced offseason programs and practice schedules equated to fresher players later in the season.
"We’re always going to reevaluate our season structure,” he said. “Do we need four preseason games?
“Fans' reaction to the quality of the preseason is important. We need to (evaluate) that collectively. We'll continue to evaluate that. Every player I've talked to say they feel better this part of the year than they ever have, and that's a result of collective bargaining."
One of the primary missions, Goodell said, in improving player safety was “removing the head from the game” as it relates to better tackling form. The commissioner also mentioned the need to remove dangerous low blocks from the game, such as the one that caused the season-ending knee injury to Texans LB Brian Cushing.
In other league news, Goodell: